« ZurückWeiter »
alone exist where there was freedom of as to suppose that those who had been the speech, and liberty of the press. When ornament of their country, who had shed these are gone, all that remained must their blood in its defence, would forget soon follow. Proof of the existing cir- the love of liberty they sucked in with cumstances which justified the measure their mother's milk, and become the inhad been denied them, and they were struments of enslaving their fellow-subcalled upon to give their sanction to it jects? It was calumniating those brave upon general notoriety. He thought the men to suppose it. One tyrant had made experience they had had should teach the experiment; and he trusted the exthem greater caution. A committee of ample would deter a repetition of the atparliament had declared a traitorous cor- tempt. Let ministers restore to the peorespondence to exist; repeated verdicts ple the blessings of peace, and prosperity of juries negatived that fact, and every would naturally follow ; let them change honest man in the country rejoiced at it. their measures, show a respect for the con. Should not that House doubt a little its stitution, and correct abuses, and there own disposition too easily to credit the would be nothing to fear from either report of plots and disaffection? As a anarchy or despotism. He concluded proof of it, he should instance the infor- with moving, " That this House will, mation of an hon. member, that the doc. upon this day se'nnight, resolve itself into trine of king-killing had been preached at the said committee. Copenhagen-house. But how was the Mr. Harrison seconded the motion. faci? No such thing did happen; that He believed the people were totally averse meeting passed off with perfect decorum to the bills. It was a measure that ought and order. That abominable hand-bill not to be adopted by ministers, unless was said to have been distributed there. they meant to insult the people, and alienate Had government no reporters there? their affections from parliament. It was, Would it have been safe for any but in his mind, a daring violation of the liberthemselves to have been the distributors ? ties of the country. How came it, if otherwise, that the per- Mr. Wallace considered that a certain sons concerned were not apprehended ? | proportion of respect was due to the peThe most clear and absolute necessity titions of the people, when they were would alone induce him to increase the fairly and honestly expressed. With repenal statutes, satisfied as he was, that gard to those before that House, it had severe penalties tended rather to the been incontestibly shown, that they were escape than punishment of offenders. In obtained by the grossest calumnies, and the name of the people of England, he the foulest misrepresentations. He there. intreated the House not to preclude them fore wished the bill to be discussed in a an opportunity of being heard against committee as soon as possible, in order these bills at their bar. An hon. gentle that it might be printed, and the people man (Mr. Wilberforce) had asked if they be enabled to form an accurate opinion loved peace? Might he not with as much of what they had to expect from it. He propriety ask that hon. gentleman, if he understood what gentlemen meant when Loved liberty, and could have been sin- they called for procrastination, and were cere in his endeavours to obtain freedom against having the measure made more for thousands who never tasted of its palatable. Their conduct showed they blessings, and now be a friend to measures were not averse to illegal resistance. They which would, if carried, establish des directly attacked that constitution for potism? He subscribed most heartily to which they affected so much regard. the doctrine laid down by Mr. Fox on a They endeavoured, by their language, to former night, that if they forced these influence the freedom of debate, and to bills upon the people against their will, light up the flame of civil war. The resistance would be no longer a question conduct of the London Corresponding of moral duty, but of prudence. Let the Society was, he insisted on it, clearly nation judge whether the friends or op- connected with the insult offered to the posers of these bills are the most entitled king. The attempt of ministers to defeat to their confidence. The secretary at their machinations gave offence to some war talked of employing “ a vigour be. gentlemen. Ile was nevertheless conyond the law." "What did this mean? vinced, that by adopting the present meaWas he so little acquainted with the stuff sures, the country would be saved. It of which an English heart was composed, had been advanced by an hon. gentleman,
that it was immaterial whether the nation them? An hon. gentleman had spoken of degenerated into a state of anarchy, or of the misrepresentation employed to prodespotism: those gentlemen, however, cure those petitions ; but surely he had who opposed the bills, would not find in forgotten the misrepresentations of those a state of anarchy protection for that pro- who supported the bill. They misrepreperty which they boasted gave them so sented it when they asserted, that it was large a share in ihe welfare of the coun- meant as a guard to the liberties of the try. He reminded Mr. Curwen of his people; for they knew that it was not having stated in a former debate, that only a daring attack upon those liberties, those clubs and societies proceeded to but that such was the object professedly such an extent as to afford hins some un. in view. He wished for delay, because easiness ; notwithstanding which, he had he wished the people to examine whether that day expressed his fears for the con- the bills were or were not intended as a stitution, when mild and necessary mea. security for their liberties. He wished for sures were taken in order to counteract delay, that they might have an opportutheir mischievous intentions. Mr. Wal. nity of comparing and consulting togelace declared, he would not say that any ther, and of giving their opinions freely. of the parties assembled at Copenhagen- He was desirous that the bills should go house, actually put the instrument into forth to the world in all their natural dethe hand of the miscreant who attacked formity, that the people might see what the sovereign; but he would assert, that an alarming stretch of power was atthe language used at that meeting was tempted. Ministers pretended that the likely to work on the minds of the igno- bills were to secure the liberties and conrant, and wat calculated to produce out. stitution of the country. He was not sure rages against the laws. Having seen the prised at such pretences; he knew that it outrages that the practices of these men had been the practice of weak politicians had already occasioned, knowing that and of furious bigots, in all ages, to prethey might be repeated, and convinced tend, while they secretly undermined any that these bill were necessary to defeat institution, that they were putting that and prevent them, he could not consent institution on a firmer basis. Had not to the present motion, because he felt the axe, the wheel, and the stake been that every hour that was lost to their used to enforce even the mild religion we proceedings, was lost to the preservation professed ? Now, he would unequivocally of the sovereign, and the safety of the affirm, that these bills were as detestable constitution.
as any of the most despotic measures of Mr. Whitbread pleaded guilty to the the most accursed tyrant upon earth. charge made against his hon. friend who Instead of beholding the people prosper made the motion, and confessed his ob- under a government of freedom, justice, ject was merely to create delay, for the and mercy, we should soon see them sink purpose of obtaining more petitions against under a government of tyranny, of perit, in its present abominable shape. Happy secution, and of blood; aye, of blood ! was it for the country, that the constitu. Was there no blood in the bill? What tion of that llouse had provided forms of did it tend to, but the shedding the deliberation, apparently with a prospec. blood of his majesty's subjects, when tive apprehension of the necessity in cer- upon such slight grounds it enforced tain cases, for delay. In those forms, he, military execution? The bill was a sewith his hon. friends, would intrench vere act, and it was to be passed into a themselves, and in those forms they would law without there having been one tittle defend their post against the passing of of evidence to prove its necessity. Where the bills, in doing which he believed they did this proof exist? In the notoriety? would also defend the liberties of the It was said it was notorious, that doctrines country. Every moment that these bills were preached upon a certain day, in a were delayed from passing into a law, certain public meeting, and that afterwas a moment preserved to the freedom wards an outrage was committed, in which of the people." It had been said, that the preaching and the practice were conthe petitions were obtained in an unfair nected. The people who composed that manner : he denied the fact. Did they meeting contend that they have been not speak the sentiments of the people? calumniated, and desire to be heard by If they did not, what was it that made mi- counsel. Until they who were so ready nisters so anxious to force the bills upon to refute, therefore, should have been refuted, there could be no conviction. But revolution ; or, if they did not rouse them. the House and the country were called selves, what had been so long prophesied, upon to give faith to these assertions. would be fulfilled - the euthanasia of the Let the House mark upon whom the British constitution. faith of these assertions must depend : Mr. J. H. Addington said, that howupon the ministers of the crown. Was it ever gentlemen might declaim against the not notorious that those very ministers bills, and assert, that they were subverhad before spread alarms of treason sive of the constitution, it was by reméthroughout the country which they could dying evils occasionally existing, that our not prove? Ought so gross a calumny as ancestors had been enabled to hand down the preamble of that bill was upon the that constitution to their posterity. The societies to be suffered ? He had heard it atrocious attack on his majesty was not said, that it was not a calumny, but a only an attack upon the king, but, consicharge. These assertions were perfectly dering the time and place, it was an åtin the manner of the high inquisition; and tack also upon the Lords and Commons, he should not be surprised if torture and was apparently the effect of a dark, should soon be adopted to force the ac- diabolical, and premeditated conspiracy. cused to a confession. [A violent cry of Clubs and conspiracies, it should never No, no!] It gave him some satisfaction be forgotten, had overturned the monarto find that the House revolted at the chy of France. What was it but a club bare mention of such tyranny. What was that imprisoned and brought to the block, the House going to do? They were going the unfortunate Louis 16th. The Conto punish the whole of his majesty's sub- vention which was erected by these clubs, jects for the indiscretion of a few, and they had, by one of their last acts, overturned would not allow the delay of a week, the whole of the club system ; and immeWould that delay defeat the purpose ? diately after that overthrow, followed the Certainly not; for while they were deli- establishment of a form of government, berating, they were surrounded by an which, being in some measure founded army, and a military force was ready to upon reasonable principles, enabled his march to any part of the metropolis the majesty to state from the throne, the moment an attack should be made. He probability of treating with them? De. would say, with his right hon. friend (Mr. structive these clubs had been in France, Fox) that if this bill should be carried by and destructive they promised to be in the influence of a corrupt majority against this country. The bill was chiefly prethe sense of the great mass of the people, ventive in its object. If it did not pass, in and made a part of the practical govern- vain had the legislature suspended the Hament of the country, resistance would no beas Corpus act; in vain had they passed longer be a question of morality and duty, the treasonable correspondence bill; in but of prudence. The bills were calcu- vain had they taken any measure to prelated for the security of ministers, and not serve the state. It would be the means that of the king, on whom they meant to of enabling ininisters to hand down to cast the odium of their misconduct and posterity the British constitution whole disgraces. He should be glad to have and unimpaired. part of the wickedness of these bills taken Mr. Lambton began with declaring, away, rather than they should be enacted that his attachment to the monarchy, was in their present state ; but he abhorred as strong as that of any man. the dete-table principles of them com- ready to protect the sovereign from every pletely. This was not all. He suspected insult, for it was a duty co-ordinate with they were preparatory to more vigorous the constitution; he had, however, other measures, since it had been already doubt- duties that were likewise co-ordinate, beed by one of the ministers, whether they cause they were connected together, and went to a sufficient extent, and whether love to thie one was inseparable from résomething beyond them would not here. I gard to the other. In his attachment to after be found to be expedient. The the king, he must include his duty to the country, however, might remain stupified constitution. It was an edifice so delifor a time; he trusted, nevertheless, that cate and beautiful in its construction, that it was asleep, not dead; the people would if the smallest part was removed, the soon rouse themselves ; and then the con- whole would totter and tremble to the sequence would be, that, either by one foundation. Great as the loyal profesconvulsive effort they would produce a sions of some gentlemen might be, the
British monarchy they must admit was wished to lessen the number of the disconfounded on English liberty, and supported tented, instead of refusing, they would by the right of the people. This was a consent to hear grievances explained. sentiment that “had grown with his / By treating them with contempt, they growth, and strengthened with his would drive the people to despair. - What strength.”. It was one that he hoped had been the boasted difference between would
go down with him to the grave, the British constitution and the old deswhether it remained locked up in his bo potism of France? It was this : in Engsom, or whether he was permitted to en- | land, truth could not be concealed from joy the good old English custom of speak the king; it made its way to his notice ing his thoughts fairly and freely. If se. through the medium of a free press, and dition did exist, the laws, were suffici- circulated through all the orders of the ent to punish it. The bill was rather state. In other countries, deprived of licalculated to promote sedition, than to berty, the avenues of public investigation prevent it. Coercion had ever made con- were locked up; no grievance, however verts; Voltaire had judiciously remarked, acutely felt, could be complained of. that the inquisition had made more prose. But how long might this enviable distinclytes than either Calvin or Luther. The tion remain? The right of petitioning present coercive measures would create
was paramount to all others. The force more disciples than Thomas Paine, Joel that tore it away might rob them of their Barlow, or the whole race of republican property.. Such measures might be contheorists. Since the year 1792, the mea- sistent with the government of Turkey, sures of administration had made more or of Russia, but not with the constitupersons disaffected to the government than tion of England: he therefore cautioned the poison of French principles. If mi- ministers against trying the experiment. nisters really wished to stop the progress He objected particularly to the clause beof that discontent, they ought to employ stowing so much discretionary power upon the means suggested by his learned friend magistrates, and enlarged upon the conse(Mr. Erskine); they ought to restore quences of it. The very nature of peti. peace and plenty, which would silence the tioning required freedom of petitioning. voice of discontent. They ought to re- The bill, however, took it away. It held medy notorious abuses, and reform the out the semblance of a right, which could representation. Such measures would neither be touched nor felt.- They had have more weight than all the violent bills been told, that no attempt would be made that ingenuity could devise. It had, how to prevent the exercise of petitioning ever, been said, that there were prece- were the bill passed. But it ought to be dents for such measures ; but from what recollected, that the exercise of the power times were those precedents selected ? of petitioning would then depend only on from the times of queen Elizabeth one of sufferance': it would no longer be a right. the most despotic monarchs that ever sat A good minister might not employ it; on the throne of Britain. It was the pre- but what a dreadful engine did it furnish cedent of an act passed by an abject par- to the views of a corrupt administration ! liament, whom she prohibited under se- Of all the attacks which had ever been vere penalties from deliberating on public made upon the liberties of Englishmen, affairs, and whose members she arrested this was, in his opinion, the most daring. on pretence of disobedience to her will. All the stretches of prerogative under Did ministers think the people would now Charles 1st, who lost his head, and James endure such precedents? The parliament 2nd, who lost his crown, were but pigmy of Charles and had passed the act, which steps when compared with the gigantic was the other precedent, in the first effu- strides of modern despotism. Ship-money, sions of their zeal, the year immediately arbitrary exactions, and even the infamous after the restoration, amidst the dread of court of star chamber, were trivial to it. a powerful unextinguished faction. What Then the right of petitioning existed, by was at that time security to the throne, which the people might remonstrate. would now be treason to the constitution. Had those arbitrary steps been preceded It was a maxim of the greatest authority, by a bill similar to the present, they might that tumults and discontents were rare have been executed with impunity. The under good governments, and that when English constitution would have been they took place, their causes might be swallowed up for ever. Much abuse had traced to mal-administration. If ministers been lavished upon the political societies
in the kingdom; in his opinion, the grand would be paradoxical indeed to say, that grievance lay in the conduct of his majes- it was by the resistance, and not the atty's ministers. They had given rise to tack, that danger was produced. If the these societies; they had created Jaco- bills, at present the subject of discussion, bins; they had diffused discontent. His were brought forward in a time of peace, sentiments he would not state in his own merely as a speculative improvement of words, but in those of a distinguished the constitution, he would not have the character who had given a just account of least hesitation in rejecting them. He the origin of the discontent in the days of was by no means inclined to depreciate Charles 1st. Mr. Lambton then read the the benefits which resulted to the people following quotation from a speech delivered from their ancient privilege of assembling, in the House in 1640 by sir Benjamin Rud- deliberating, and expressing their sentiyard : * “ His majesty is wiser than those ments on any public measure. He knew that have advised him, and therefore he that even legislators sometimes stood in cannot but see and feel their subverting need of certain checks and correctives, destructive counsels, which speak louder and that the voice of the people might than I can speak of them: for they ring a and had been known to operate as a salutary doleful deadly knell over the whole king control. Gentlemen had gone
very dom. His majesty best knows who they little way, indeed, in argument on the are: for us let the matter bolt out the measure, when they showed only that it men; their actions discover them. They was a restriction. All government was a are men that talk largely of the king's restriction laid on, not because it was service ; have done none but their own, agreeable, but because it was necessary; and that's too evident. They speak so that when gentlemen objected to these highly of the king's power, but they have bills, that they would operate as a resmade it a miserable power, that produceth traint, they only left the question where nothing but weakness both to the king they found it; for, by a parity of reasonand kingdom. They have exhausted the ing, they might dispose of all kind of king's revenue to the bottom, and beyond. social restriction whatsoever, and argue They have spent vast sums of money back to a dissolution of the
elements wastefully, fruitlessly, and dangerously'; of government. The sole question was, so that more money, without other coun- whether, when a measure, though not sels, will be but a swift undoing. They good in itself, was productive of good by have always peremptorily pursued one ob preventing evil
, it should or should not stinate pernicious course ; first, they bring be adopted ? No restraint was good in the things to an extremity, then they make abstract; yet it sometimes happened (and that extremity of their own making the it was a part of the allotment of humareason of their next action, seven times nity), that men were obliged to recur to worse than the former; and there we are a lesser evil for prevention of a greater : at this instant. They have almost spoiled it was in fact, impossible for a free conthe best instituted government in the stitution to escape unhurt from an attack world, for sovereignty in a king, liberty made upon it under colour of its own to the subject : the proportionable temper principles: it must necessarily either fall of both which, makes the happiest state under the attack, or be injured by that for power, for riches, and for duration.” which was applied as its safeguard. Res
Mr. William Grant said, that supposing trictions on monarchical governments the assertions made use of by gentlemen were not very sensibly felt; but when on the other side to be well grounded and any part of a community employed for true; that is to say, supposing it were its destruction a portion of rights and true, that the measures in agitation power enjoyed by all, there was great trenched, in some degree, on the consti- danger; and they would only have to tution, it by no means followed, that choose between two difficulties, namely, they ought not, in any possible case, to whether they would endure the utmost be adopted. If
, in case of an invasion, evil that unresisted, unrestrained power measures of a similar nature were deemed might bring, or lay restrictions on the expedient, it would not be less unrea- whole, in order to prevent its ruin by the sonable than in the present case to attri- abuse of a part. bute to them the same consequences. It It was one of the conditions of his state
here, that man hardly ever had it in his Sec Vol. 2, p. 645.
power to make choice between goods ;